Archive TOS update

The OTW’s Content Policy is pleased to put the following updates to the Archive’s Terms of Service forward for two weeks of public discussion. The full Terms of Service can be found linked on the archive page, but for clarity, all emendations and new policy items are listed below the cut.

Summary of Changes: aka: the Bottom Line!
The TOS updates are based on a revision and clarification of the system for ratings and warnings on the Archive (Section IV.K), and the expansion of policy on Collections in response to new functionality (Section V.A). In particular, we are trying to make the warnings more intuitive in response to user feedback, though we remain committed to the basic policy that creators get to decide whether and how they want to use warnings. For more information on the new system and how it will affect users, please see our post on Changes to the Archive Warnings System.

These TOS changes are not yet final: we are currently offering them for a comment period of at least two weeks before the board votes on them, as per section I.A.2 of the TOS. We are soliciting feedback during this time. Comments must be received by January 1, 2010.

Section IV.K.1.b. Revision to wording about warnings and tags, to reflect the new system on the Archive.

By default, all users will see the archive warnings and tags the creator has selected. Any logged-in user who wishes to avoid archive warnings and tags may set preferences to hide them by default. Logged-in users who set their preferences to hide information are proceeding at their own risk and may be exposed to content they would otherwise wish to avoid. Such users may change their preferences, or reveal information for specific stories, at any time.

Section IV.K.2.b. Removing definitions on Ratings, to allow for user discretion.

The Archive uses the following ratings:

  1. General audiences.
  2. Teen and up audiences.
  3. Mature.
  4. Explicit.
  5. Not rated.

Section IV.K.3. Revision to information on warnings, reflecting wording changes on the Archive.

  1. General description:

    There are two components to warnings on the Archive.

    1. Archive warnings: Creators can select from a list of archive warnings. The list also allows creators to select “choose not to use archive warnings” and “none of these warnings apply,” or equivalent text as specified on the creator upload form.
    2. Secondary (optional) tags, including warnings: Creators can define their own tags, as seriously or as humorously as they like. These can include specific content warnings. The warnings policy only covers archive warnings.
  2. As a rule, the creator controls the warnings.

    Selecting “choose not to use archive warnings,” or the equivalent text as specified on the creator upload form, satisfies a creator’s obligation under the warnings policy. If a fanwork uses this option, we will not sustain any failure-to-warn complaints. If the abuse team receives a failure-to-warn complaint in other circumstances, the abuse team may decide the absence of a specific archive warning is misleading. In such cases, the creator may be asked to add a warning or to select the choose not to warn option. If the creator declines or fails to respond, the abuse team may set the warning to indicate that the creator has chosen not to warn. The abuse team’s authority extends only to changing a warning to “choose not to use archive warnings” or equivalent text, not to selecting any other warning.

  3. The meaning of “choose not to use archive warnings” or equivalent text:

    The fanwork may contain any of the subject matter on the archive list. Users who wish to avoid specific elements entirely should not access fanworks marked with “choose not to use archive warnings.” A creator can select both “choose not to use archive warnings” and one of the archive warnings in order to warn for some but not all of the archive warnings.

Section IV.K.4. Consequence of failure to use an appropriate rating or archive warning:

In general, failure to use an appropriate rating or archive warning is not a violation of the abuse policy.

It is our policy to defer to creators’ categorizations, but we reserve the right to recategorize a fanwork in two situations. (1) When we determine that a complaint about a “general” or “teen and up” rating is valid, we may change the rating to “not rated.” (2) When we determine that a complaint about a failure to warn for content on the archive warning list is valid, we may add “choose not to use archive warnings” or equivalent text. The abuse team will not pick a more specific rating or warning for a fanwork.

Section V.A. Expansion of policy on Collections, to reflect new functionality.

Collections, Challenges, and Exchanges

  1. Archive users may create collections and encourage other users to submit fanworks to those collections. The collection maintainer can set any constraints she or he wants on the collection, including rules about anonymous works (see A.4 below) but must otherwise follow the content policy (e.g., if the collection content is explicit, it should be marked as “explicit” or “choose not to rate”). The collection maintainer may be able to ask users for suggestions for new fanworks (“prompts”), collect prompts, match participants with prompts (including contacting them via the contact information provided to the Archive or to the collection maintainer), and show the prompts on the Archive, following the general rules governing works on the Archive. Where collection rules allow, prompts may be anonymous or limited-visibility, as detailed in A.4 and A.5 below.
  2. To be part of a collection, the fanwork creator has to affirmatively submit the fanwork to the collection. The collection maintainer will be able to remove the fanwork from the collection, but not from the Archive.
  3. If the collection maintainer has specified in advance in the collection rules that submissions cannot later be removed from the collection, the user who submitted the fanwork will not be able to delete it, but will be able to orphan it so that the user’s identity is no longer associated with the fanwork.
  4. In order to implement certain types of collections, the Archive may allow works to be posted without making the creator generally visible (which we call anonymous works).
    1. Anonymous works are not orphan works, though they can be orphaned.
    2. The creator’s pseudonym will not be publicly associated with the story while the anonymity is in place. For non-orphaned works, the creator’s pseudonym will be visible to administrators (including members of the abuse team for purposes of resolving complaints), co-creators (if any), and the maintainers of any collection of which the work is a part.
    3. If the collection of which a work is a part specifies rules regarding anonymity, such as a designated time for revealing authorship, the collection maintainer may be able to control the work’s anonymity consistent with those rules. In other situations, creators may be able to choose anonymity.
  5. In order to implement certain types of collections, the Archive may allow works to be posted which will not be generally visible until a time set by the collection maintainer.
    1. Once posted, the work will be visible to administrators (including members of the abuse team for purposes of resolving complaints), co-creators (if any), and the maintainers of any collection of which the work is a part.
    2. If the collection of which a work is a part specifies rules regarding time of general visibility, the collection maintainer may be able to control the time at which a work becomes generally visible to archive users.
  6. In the absence of an independent violation of the abuse policy, the Archive will not intervene in decisions by the collection maintainer.

2 thoughts on “Archive TOS update

  1. I don’t understand how you can sustain an abuse complaint that something has been erroneously rated as For General Audiences, when you’ve removed the ratings definitions entirely. I don’t see how removing the ratings definitions makes the situation less confusing.

    1. Belatedly replying to this, sorry!

      Abuse complaints are always going to be a matter of nuance; there’s no way we can create really strict definitions for the different ratings (or rather, better minds than ours have tried over the years, leading to brilliant definitions of obscenity like, “I know it when I see it.”) If someone complains that a particular story is not for general audiences, and gives a reason, the best Abuse can do is to see if they agree with the reason. But ratings are very difficult to define precisely: you can start listing things that shouldn’t be there, but you can never come up with an exhaustive list of what shouldn’t be there, if you see what I mean.

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